Being Prepared: Bioterrorism and Mass Prophylaxis Part I

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Bioterrorism presents a real and omnipresent risk to public health throughout the world. More than 30 biological agents have been identified as possessing the potential to be deployed in a bioterrorist attack. Those that have been determined to be of the greatest concern and possess the greatest potential of use in this arena are known as the Category A agents: Bacillus anthracis (anthrax); Variola major (smallpox); Yersinia pestis (plague); Francisella tularensis (tularemia); viral hemorrhagic fevers; and Clostridium botulinum toxin (botulism toxin). Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilizes surveillance systems to identify illnesses, the weight of diagnosing, effectively treating, and notifying the appropriate public health officials lies squarely on the shoulders of emergency care personnel. Part I of this two-part review will focus on the clinical presentation and treatment of anthrax, plague, and tularemia. The subsequent Part II of this review will discuss smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers, botulism toxin, and the provision of mass prophylaxis.

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